Serbian manufacturer Utva is to supply the Iraqi air force with up to 35 Lasta 3 primary/basic trainers, according to Balkan media reports. The Serbian defence ministry declines to confirm the number of aircraft to be supplied, but says the purchase forms part of a wider arms deal with Baghdad worth $235 million forged by state arms export company Yugoimport-SDPR.
Dating back to the mid-1980s, the piston-engined Lasta was designed to operate between the former Yugoslav air force's Utva 75 and Soko G-4 Super Galeb trainers. Two prototypes and six pre-production aircraft were completed, but two were lost during accidents and the remainder were destroyed in Utva's Pancevo factory during NATO's Operation "Allied Force" in 1999. The current Lasta 3 design (previously referred to as the Lasta 95) features new wing and tail surfaces, which the company says will reduce the 300hp (224kW) Lycoming AEIO-540-powered aircraft's stall speed, enabling it to be used for pilot screening duties.
Utva general manager Tomislav Bjelogrlic says the first Lasta 3 prototype should make its flight debut in March, with deliveries to the Serbian air force to commence during 2010. However, it is unclear whether the Iraqi deal will accelerate this schedule.